October 21, 2016

how I listen to audiobooks (and six recent favorites)...

image For the past year, audiobooks have become one of my favorite things. I am still a bit of a podcast junkie, but once I've depleted my weekly queue, I often fill the void with my latest audiobook. (As shown in the photo above, my current listen is The Lifegiving Home by Sally and Sarah Clarkson. It makes me want to buy a bunch of candles and listen to Celtic music and invite people over for a homemade dinner. I love it.)

It's rather fantastic how many ways you are able to listen to audiobooks for free these days, and I thought I'd share my recommendations, as well as a short list of books I've listened to recently and personally loved.

Here are the three ways I've listened to audiobooks for free:

Overdrive — This free app connects to my local library account and lets me browse a seemingly endless number of titles. They offer both eBooks and audiobooks, but I only use this app for the audiobooks because I'm an old, old woman and reading books on my phone makes me crabby. There is no limit on check-outs, and each title is yours to listen to for two weeks. The only drawback is that there is often a wait for more popular titles. (You can put books on hold, similar to when you want to read a physical book from the library that is wildly popular.) This app has a huge selection of titles, so if something is available on audiobook, odds are you should have no trouble finding it here. You're able to download each title you check-out to your device, so listening without using data is easy peasy.

Hoopla — I started using this free digital service through the app on my phone much more recently. Although I can also use it for free using my library account, I figured I had all my bases covered with Overdrive and thought it was basically the same thing. I wasn't interested in using it until a librarian convinced me by telling me that although it has a more limited range of titles, there is no wait time for the audiobooks you select and it also has music and movies. Yes, I was sold. The one drawback is that you are limited to 6 titles on any given month (you can mix-and-match audiobooks, full-length music albums and movies). If you have kids, I highly recommend using this as a great way to listen to audiobooks because their selection is fantastic. They have an unbelievable selection of kids titles! (We are currently working our way through the Ramona series.) Hoopla is my go-to app for audiobooks these days. Oh! And you are able to download any items you check-out to your device, so you don't have to worry about using any data while listening.

Audible — I did a 30-day free trial of this popular service because they were offering a free audiobook for signing up. (Right now you can snag two free audiobooks with the same trial offer. You get to keep the books even if you cancel, which is rather nice!) After the initial 30-days, I canceled the trial because I'm able to get most of what I want to listen to rather quickly at this point between the two above apps, and the $14.95/month price was just too high for me, even though it includes one free audiobook each month.

I thought I'd share a list of six titles I have recently listened to and totally recommend. To be honest, I have started and quit an equal number of audiobooks (I used to hate quitting physical books or audiobooks, but at this point in life I've given myself permission and it's rather freeing.). In any case, here is a short list of audiobooks I completely adored:

Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng — It took me a while to get through this one, only because it's such a beautifully intricate story that isn't something to rush through. I'm not sure I've savored a book this much in a long, long while. I'd heard a lot of buzz about this book and I'm so glad I finally gave it a listen. Coming of age, the struggles within a family, a bit of mystery, the lessons we learn...this book covers it all in a beautiful (sometimes heartbreaking) way.

Don't You Cry by Mary Kubica — This author can do no wrong by me. She writes a great physiological thriller, and this one didn't disappoint! I love how this book weaves the stories of two characters together so perfectly and unexpectedly. I know many people couldn't stand Gone Girl or Girl on a Train, but if you enjoyed those titles (like me!) odds are you'd love any of Mary Kubica's books.

Pretty Baby by Mary Kubica — This would have to be my second favorite book from this author (my first being The Good Girl) and I can't recommend this one enough to any fan of this genre. The story goes back and forth between two characters: an ordinary woman and the homeless girl with a baby that she has a chance encounter with one day. It's one I'm so glad I listened to on audio, because it is so well done! I love hearing a story unfold piece by piece in this way.

A Mother's Reckoning by Sue Klebold — This book is the memoir written by the mother of Dylan Klebold, who was one of the shooters at Columbine High School. This is one of the most honest, heartbreaking and life-changing books I've ever read (or listened to). It's also one I recommend to everyone—especially those of you who are parents. The author is deeply invested in raising awareness about mental illness and depression in children, teens and young adults, and the things she shares are so important for every one of us to hear. It's a very heart-wrenching memoir, but so worth taking the time to read. If you haven't yet read it, please do.

The Widow by Fiona Barton — This is another fantastic psychological thriller that I enjoyed so much. It is another that is told from several viewpoints as the chapters go on (which tends to be my favorite writing style these days). The widow in the book recently lost her husband, who was suspected of a terrible crime many years before. There are many twists and turns as the story shifts from the widow's story to the husband's story to a journalist's story and so on. (It does involve a missing child, so if that is a trigger at all, you may want to avoid this one.)

A Thousand Miles to Freedom by Eunsun Kim — This is one of those books you listen to and realize what a luxury it is to be doing a sinkful of crusty dishes with two screamy children trying to get your attention. Any complaint I have is such a first world problem when I hear stories like the ones the author shares. She grew up in North Korea and began her escape when she was just eleven years old. She isn't much older than I am, and just thinking about all she endured during her earliest years is almost inconceivable. It's a book I hope I'll always remember.

And now it's time for you to let me know of any and all audiobook recommendations you may have. I'd love to add some to my list! Especially those with British or Australian narrators, because that makes me all kinds of happy.

Further reading: the best celebrity memoirs I've read

Affiliate links included in this post; view my disclosure policy here

October 18, 2016

Mrs. Meyer's fall freebie...

I'm definitely that person who believes October is about pumpkins and apples and scarves and cinnamon and baked goods and possibly eating several homemade muffins each and every day. I believe the cool kids call this being "basic" or some such nonsense, but I'm over wanting to be a cool kid, so just give me all the pumpkin spice candles and let me live my truth and eat my carbs.

In the spirit of autumnal goodness, I wanted to share an offer from Grove Collaborative that may make your October complete, which features two seasonal scents: Mum and Apple Cider. I've used Mrs. Meyer's dish soap pretty consistently for the past year (the basil scent is my happy place) and love when I have the chance to help others get some without paying full price—or, you know, any price whatsoever. I'm also mildly obsessed with the Grove Collaborative kitchen towels (also included in this offer) which I actually use as hand towels in our bathroom. So simple, durable and quite pretty!

Here's how you can snag a bundle of Mrs. Meyer's products for completely free and receive free shipping on your first $20 order! (When I first signed up, it was a bundle very similar to this that enticed me so. I'm all about the free soap, let me tell you this.)
I've shared deals similar to this one in the past (and these seasonal scents tend to sell out quickly!) so to keep things easy peasy, here's what you need to do to get this bundle for free:

— New customers sign up here. (Please note they do not currently ship to Canada, Hawaii or Alaska!)

— Answer a few questions to help customize your first order with items you may enjoy (which you are able to adjust as much as you'd like!).

— Fill your basket with at least $20 worth of products, and the Mrs. Meyer's products will be completely free, as well as shipping on your entire first order.

— Finish and pay and go eat a muffin.

Pssst! Current customers can click here to get this bundle for 50% off!

Rest assured, you aren't locked into any subscription and aren't required to purchase anything beyond your first order. Just be sure to update your account before your next monthly order ships (they'll always be sure to send you an email before this happens). I only planned on using Grove Collaborative for my initial order, but I've continued using them (even when I don't have referral credits!) because they have such great prices, products, and customer service.

This deal is valid through Sunday, October 23rd at 6pm PT. So, go ahead! Order some goodness for yourself and enjoy it very much and maybe even thank my children for taking magically synchronized naps that allowed me to both write this post and clean the entire kitchen. (Hallelujah!)

Affiliate links included in this post; view my disclosure policy hereImages provided by Grove Collaborative.

October 17, 2016

a small list of good things...

+ This morning, I woke up to the sound of pouring rain. It's such an odd thing, living here in Southern California, when I literally can't remember the last time it has poured like this. (How is that even possible?) I was able to wake up early this morning and listen to the rain outside while writing this post and enjoying a cup of coffee in the semidarkness. (I refuse to turn on any lights when I'm up this early—it's already a dang miracle when walking through our creaky apartment doesn't alert my firstborn that I am awake and seemingly ready to offer breakfast and conversation.)

+ To add to my growing list of things I love about Aldi, I recently discovered their organic marinara comes in the cutest Mason jars that can very easily be reused. After removing the label (you can read about how I do this in this post) I realized there are even measurements in the side of the glass. This sauce is already priced very low for an organic product (around $1.50 per jar) but I'm now also a little too excited about reusing the jars, as well. It's the little things, folks.

+ I recently discovered two podcasts that I'm loving. The first one is the At Home podcast, which is hosted by six women who talk all things homeschooling, faith and motherhood. I recommend the following episodes: The Early Years, Socialization, and The Cultivated Mother. I also highly recommend listening to their episode on Feminism, which I was nervous to listen to (based on my own personal beliefs and opinions) but ended up being a complete breath of fresh air and unlike anything I've heard on the subject as of late. The second podcast I can't get enough of is The Homeschool Sisters Podcast. The two episodes I recommend listening to first are: I Want a Milkshake: When Dad Works a Lot (my husband's new job has unexpectedly brought a fair amount of travel, so this was rather timely) and You Don't Have to Do it All: Getting Started with Homeschooling.

+ We recently survived nearly two weeks of one child or the other being sick, which definitely messed with our much-loved and much-needed routine, and I'm very eager to get back into our usual groove this week. I've been writing a post in my head on the importance of rhythm and routine in my life, so we will see when I'm able to actually post these thoughts here. (Soon, I hope!)

+ This September, I bit the bullet and asked another mama I knew from our local library's story time about her homeschool co-op. I knew she was homeschooling her daughter and son, and I had to work up the courage to ask her whether she is a part of a co-op (which is a feat for me, because I'm not that social with people I don't already know on a personal level, and I get crazy first-date-level jitters trying to strike up a substantial conversation with other moms). I'm so glad I put on my big girl pants and finally talked with her about it, because as of September we have been a part of the most wonderful weekly co-op, and it has been one of the best parts of our school year so far. As they say, it's so important to find your tribe when you're doing something that is somewhat off the beaten path, and these women (and their children) are becoming just that.

+ Next month we should be able to move forward with house hunting, and for that I am grateful. The perfect place will come at the perfect time. Repeat, repeat, repeat.

— Further reading: more small lists of good things